79+ minutes of bliss
JC ESQ | Baltimore MD | 11/01/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first heard the music of Gerald Finzi while driving in a rental car in Albany, New York in 1990. A classical station was playing his "Eclogue for Piano and Strings". I was dumbfounded. Why had I never before heard this beautiful piece of music ? I pulled over to the side of the road and called the station (remember those early cell phones that looked like walkie-talkies ?), and got the info. When I returned home, I hunted down the Lyrita LP, with Peter Katin on the piano, and the strings of the New Philharmonia Orchestra. Years later, I got rid of all of my LPs; I had several CDs of Finzi's music by then, and I figured that my departed and sorely missed LP would soon be out on CD.
I waited quite a while, as it turned out, but it was worth the wait. The Lyrita Recorded Edition (see my Alwyn review for info about the label) has done a superb transfer of the original LP to CD, adding pieces from another Finzi LP on the way. The sum total is this magnificent collection of music by a man whom I consider to be the most underrated composer of the 20th century.
The works on this disc include: A Severn Rhapsody (Op.3), Nocturne (Op.7), Three Soliloquies for Small Orchestra (from Op.28), Romance for String Orchestra (Op.11), Prelude for String Orchestra (Op.25), The Fall of the Leaf (Op.20), Introit for Small Orchestra and solo Violin (Op.6), the Eclogue for Piano and Strings (Op.10), and the Grand Fantasia and Toccata for Piano and Orchestra (Op.38). The Eclogue and the Grand Fantasia are played by the New Philharmonia, conducted by Vernon Handley; the remainder of the works are played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Adrian Boult.
Finzi's parents were Jewish, and despite his Italian-sounding name, he was as English as could be. He studied counterpoint at the Royal College of Music, and later taught at the Royal Academy of Music. After his marriage in 1933, he and his wife lived in the country; it was an idyllic life in pastoral surroundings. He enjoyed modest success as a composer in England, with numerous works published and performed in his lifetime. Sadly, he died too young at age 55.
Many CDs of Finzi's music are available; I have six aside from this one, on the Naxos, EMI, Chandos, and Nimbus labels. This Lyrita CD is by far the best of the lot. The sound is lifelike, full, and transparent, on a solid black-quiet background. The music itself is melodic, lyrical, and elegant; perhaps the best word is "moving". Finzi was a friend of Howard Ferguson, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and William Walton, among others, and the influence of those friends is detectable yet Finzi speaks in his own voice. This is emotional music that stays with you for a long time after the disc is over.
I can't recommend this disc highly enough. It should be in the collection of every serious music lover."
Beautiful but Eclogue was cut
Cleopatrai | 01/03/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I first encountered Gerald Finzi on my classical radio station WWFM and of course what was played was Eclogue. It wrenched my gut.
This year I lost my "significant other" and managed to get a download of that track to serve as some of the music played at his service. Then a good friend sent me this album. I really like it, except that the Eclogue is shorter than the one downloaded for me.
I understand that there were several versions of it and certainly this one is very moving and beautiful - but having heard the first, I found myself wanting just a little bit more.
Other than that the rest of the recording is beautiful, the sound quality excellent and I would have given it a five-star rating had I not first heard the longer version.